The Blues ended their perfect 5-0 road trip with a 2-0 shutout of the Detroit Red Wings, closing their door to Joe Louis arena in style. For now, it appears the coaching change was exactly what the doctor ordered.
The team seems looser, the rookies are free to play through mistakes and learn rather than worry about getting benched, and the penalty kill have been one of the best in the league. Don’t believe me? Look at last night’s shift chart. Wade Megan played 4 shifts in the last 8:45 of the game. Kenny Agostino and Magnus Paajarvi had 4 shifts in the last 9:30. Ivan Barbasheve had 3 shifts during the same time with one of those being 1:25. Compare that to David Perron and Patrik Berglund who only had 2 shifts during the last 9:30. Consider that the coaching staff continued to use Agostino after his bad turnover inside their own blue line.
I realize that there is a fine line between holding players accountable so that they don’t play irresponsible and being so strict that can’t play their game because they are always afraid they will make a mistake. Mike Yeo seems to be striking balance so far.
Listen to Yeo’s comments: “It’s easy for me to trust them right now because they’re doing the job” As to the goaltending improvement, I’ve noticed that the goalies are a lot more square to the shooters and that the goalies are playing a calmer game in the crease with less, more efficient movements. I’m sure that part of this is because of the team’s improved defensive play but I wonder how much is due to the influence of Martin Brodeur.
It was great to see Jaden Schwartz’s defensive efforts lead to his first point against the Red Wings, the game sealing empty net goal. Will this spark a Patrik Berglund like run?
Carter Hutton recorded his 3rd shutout in his last 4 games and 4 in his last six road starts, all on the road and the last three against Eastern Conference opponents. The four shutouts match his career total before those shutouts.
Tonight the Blues will be back at the Scottrade to face the Vancouver Canucks who will be playing the last game of their six game road trip, having gone 2-3 on their first five. The Canucks are the 4th worst in goals per game and have the 4th worst power play and their penalty kill is only a little better at 8th worst but they are only 5 points out of a wild card playoff spot.
Most Blues fans wouldn’t be able to guess who leads the Canucks in points this season. Bo Horvat is besting both Sedins with 38 points in 56 games. They would be even less likely to know who is leading their defense, Troy Stecher with 16 points. Interestingly, it seems the Blues will face Jacob Markstrom in net, not Ryan Miller even though the Canucks had an off day yesterday and one tomorrow.
The Blues will be looking to avenge their 2-1 overtime loss in early October. With the recent winning streak, the Blues are on pace for 94 points. Last season that would only have been good enough for the final wild card spot in the Western Conference but it appears this season it may be good enough for 3rd place in the Central division.
With Stastny, Robby Fabbri and Kyle Brodziak still on injured reserve, no practice today and the team winning, expect the lineup to stay the same as this (except Allen of course):
Steen – Lehtera – Tarasenko
Schwartz – Berglund – Perron
Agostino – Barbarshev – Paajarvi
Upshall – Megan – Reaves
Bouwmeester – Pietrangelo
Gunnarsson – Shattenkirk
Edmundson – Parayko
It’s a great day for hockey.
Fellow Hockeybuzz bloggers Nashville Predator's Paul McCann, Winnipeg Jet's Peter Tessier and Minnesota Wild's Dan Wallace have generously agreed to a friendly charity wager. We were hoping to do the whole division but don't have it fully represented yet. The blogger whose team finishes the highest the standings at the end of the year gets to pick a charity to whom the others donate in their name.